Sunday, January 14, 2018

Thinking outside of the (pizza) box...

 Joan Perry, a longtime friend - and fellow blogger - notified me about a new catering service being introduced by Mellow Mushroom.

She and I both were going to a "preview" at the Mellow's Avondale store to see what new food treats they would be offering along with their famed pizzas.

This store was converted a few years ago from a community movie theater. It's long and narrow and there still is a balcony upstairs above the entrance.

The balcony has comfortable table seating and a semi-circle table had been set up with a tasty array of the new catering menu.

Salads to the left and sandwiches to the right. I happened to be standing near the table as Karen Tassinari, Director of Catering, came over to open the neatly arranged covered boxes of samples.

She smiled and said, "You are at the front of the line."

I picked up a plate and followed her as she opened and described the contents of soups, signature salads, and sandwiches.

Kaen's card says she oversees catering there, King Street, North Charleston and Summerville.

Joan arrived as I sat at the table, looking over my choices.

She picked her favorites and came back to sit next to me and we compared our plates. We each chose a glass of the house red wine.

I said the baby kale, mixed with young spinach salad was tasty.

Joan said she had won a raffle recently and Mellow Mushroom provided a diverse catered lunch for 25 of her hospital volunteers at Roper-St. Francis.

Joan made it a first-come group because she had many more volunteers.

I was pleased she had notified me of this preview in Avondale.

I noticed a gentleman seated nearby who seemed to be answering questions about the foods. When I introduced myself, I found he was Todd LeBlanc, the chef who had designed the foods, in from Mellow Mushrooms's corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

Joan told Todd about the 25-person lunch that was catered and how pleased she was to have won the drawing. He thanked her for her interest in doing a follow-up to the source.

We all agreed this was a much better week to have such event rather than earlier during our ice and snow storm.





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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Winter Weather in the Lowcountry..

We watched on tv as the icy, snow-laden weather streamed down from Canada.

It happens every year and we were somewhat smug that it usually doesn't come this far south.

I mean, we are described as "sub-tropic" and we have palm trees.

My yard has almost a dozen of them.

How South can you get?! Miami-like.

Oh, I heeded the drastic warnings and dire forecasts.

Oh boy, did I!

I realized my plants needed to be tended to.

Last year I had purchased a simple, $50 clear, plastic hothouse online from Amazon, just in case I ever needed to protect my smaller deck plants.

A l00-watt incandescent light bulb could be plugged in if additional heat protection was needed.
There was a brief - but heavy - snowfall in February 2014.

That reminded me that in 2010, Wallaby was my cat when we had some snow. He was an outside cat and he itched to go check this.

Wallaby galloped bravely down the snow-covered front steps and quickly realized this was NOT the "outside" he remembered.

He was out only a few minutes and raced back up the stairs, giving me a look that he did not appreciate whatever joke I was trying to pull! I think he also wanted longer legs.

With that quickly melting snowfall, things improved overnight, the palm trees popped back up as the snow melted and the silly Wallaby cat was ready - and eager - to be outside again.

The weathermen mentioned that previous brief snow - and the one in Hugo Year 1989 -  but warned this was a Snowmagedden Storm and we needed to make sure faucets were dripping and cross our fingers that the power (and heat!) did not go out when ice burdened limbs and power lines snapped.

This storm started late Tuesday with rain.

Lots of it, freezing as it hit the ground. I draped a sheet over the exposed plants and switched on the warming light bulb.

Wednesday I mainly looked out at the blanket of snow, snug inside and marveling at the amount that had fallen.

The excited weather people pegged it at just under 6-inches and Carolina drivers were hearing about the threat of "black ice."



That shocker extended all the way down to Tallahassee, Florida so this "climate change" was for real.

I had overlooked some items left outside on the deck and saw now I had a pair of "snowshoes."

During the day, some snow melted in the sunshine but quickly re-froze at night, creating treacherous slippery patches.

This was NOT going to be a brief, chilly inconvenience.

Projected temps for the next few days were going to be below freezing.

Even to a low of 16 degrees!

My slowly dripping faucet was still keeping my pipes from freezing.

Hardy younger neighbors had never hesitated to go and romp in the snow while it was still falling.

Note the socks used as gloves!

I could hear a few cars crunching their way past my house that reminded me of the year I had lived up in Minnesota.

Hmmm, were there oleanders that far north?

After venturing out into my yard on Thursday, I listened closely to traffic conditions and decided on Friday to attend a quarterly luncheon of the Post and Courier Retirees Gang.

I called and learned the restaurant had been closed since the storm struck but had re-opened Friday morning.

A slow and careful drive to Liberty Tap Room in Mt Pleasant was uneventful. Whew.

Stepped inside and saw the Liberty staff had arranged our meeting space to accommodate the 15-20  guys who usually attended.

I saw one other retiree and, soon, two more joined us.

Instead of messing up the neat setup, we sat at a table of four and listened to staffers tell us their snow and ice stories and we shared ours.

My situation at home was fairly close to the others. We all were concerned and were careful driving.

But a few close calls were cited as other drivers drove as if there was no ice and we all agreed, right now slipping and sliding, was a fact of life.

Because I did not lose power, my home was toasty comfortable, and my cat just took it for granted.

She had no interruption of her Kibble, things looked the same for her and her cat naps were the usual 16-hours a day.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

A change in the weather did not really alter what I was doing.

I did scrape the snow and ice off my deck and shook the snow off the sheet I had placed on the larger plants.

Then, I unzipped the small clear plastic greenhouse.

I turned off the bulb that had kept it warm inside.
and was rewarded with the sight of a fresh blooming flower.

That was $50 well spent for the plants.

Below are some other random snow photos, including one when my station wagon almost disappeared during the one year I lived in Minnesota.

While living in Minnetonka, I was offered a job in the Florida Division of Tourism.

They asked if I wanted to come down and check it out.

I laughed and said I accept the job sight-unseen. No hesitation.

The job was in Florida and I had just spent a year where Winter was invented!






















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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tis the season for eatin'.......

 Ever since I saw the classic movie A Christmas Story, I think of the Asian dinner the family had on Christmas Eve.

No goose with a long neck though!

I think it is (possibly) a FACT that these restaurants always stay open at Yule time.

All the other eateries are closed and the staff is at home with family.

The Green Garden opened around the corner from my house last year and - so far - it has been open on Christmas. Got the Lemon chicken and veggies to go.

Enough left over for a second meal.

My brother and his wife invited me to have Christmas dinner at his house.

We ate together on Turkey Day and I had brought along a pie and ice cream.

Guess I started a "tradition" -  invite the bachelor bro and he'll bring a pie.

This time I bought a frozen one, read the label carefully and baked it for 55-minutes and it was perfect!

The crumbled topping and the crust were crispy.

I thought he even had provided vanilla ice cream but it was frozen yogurt. Hmm, I'll have to remember that.

The day before I had stopped for a late breakfast at a diner on Daniel Island after seeing my skin doctor.

She told me the earlier blemish that she had frozen off my cheek was completely gone.

She reminded me to apply sunblock there - and on my lips - four times a day to be safe.

The dentist tells me to floss after every meal. I listen to both doctors.

Well, I DO listen.

Please note, I paid extra for the breakfast to add sausage to the bacon that came with it.

And, instead of standard hashbrowns, this came with diced potatoes...including some sweet potatoes. How could I refuse?

In addition to now actually cooking a meal (well, one frozen apple pie), I have started making Avocado Toast.

More than once!

This whole idea of living alone and making a grocery list every week (well, sometimes two weeks go by), is still fairly new.

The internet is a great source of quick directions. I have had some frozen salmon filets and just figured out they can be zapped in the microwave fairly easily.

Meanwhile, Wallis, the orange cat has shown my investment in an amusing cat toy is paying off.

She ignored it for more than a week, then she would join me in playing with it until I got bored and walked away.

Now, she not only spins the three brightly-colored ping pong balls, using her paw to push them, she will nudge the device around the room until it is sitting where she wants it.

She also has added a new feature for it to entertain her...
She manages to wrest one of the balls from its loop and it slowly rolls across the carpet.
So far, just the pink one, on the bottom.

(Clik on the links and photos for more details)

Eating and playing with the cat.

Retirement is a full-time effort.






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Monday, December 18, 2017

A Semper Fi "war story"....

I was telling a buddy of mine how much I enjoyed his stories about his Army days overseas in Italy and aboard troop ships getting there and coming back.

He crammed a lot of "unofficial" events into his military memory floggers.

Then, one day, I asked how long had he served and he said he was a 2-year draftee.

Wow, the tales he told about in that short time span.

My only Marine Corps time out of the United States was to an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, which of course, is a territory of the US, along with Guam and, I think,  Samoa.

In my four-month stint on the small island of Vieques, in 1960, I was attached as a photographer to a tank Battalion from Camp Lejeune.

It also included my only ocean voyage, but not aboard a fancy cruise ship.

It was the USS Fremont, a flat-bottomed attack troop carrier from WWII and it bounced us down from North Carolina for 7 days, culminating with a USMC training pre-dawn landing.

It was like every war movie I had seen in my young life,  tightening our helmet strap, donning a life jacket, hoisting our backpacks, and slowly climbing down the side of the ship on scratchy brown cargo nets.

We timed our release to drop down into the bobbing small landing craft and hoped it would not be surging up when our boots made contact.

The training was pretty authentic and we could see and hear loud explosions on the beach ahead.

My job as a combat camera toter was to wade ashore and race ahead of the landing troops with my camera.

(It helped a whole lot that nobody was actually firing at us!)

I remember there were quite a few LCP (Landing Craft Personnel) as daybreak slowly lighted up the beach.


We could see signed areas warning us to keep away from the planted explosions that were booming to create the sounds and noise of an actual combat landing of troops.

I heard later that two Marines had died when one of the LCPs had sunk. However, I don't recall that was actually ever confirmed.

It was my first view of a Marine Corps Amtrack vehicle used in an amphibious landing.
Once ashore,
the tankers set up their Tent City rows of 5-man units like everyone later saw on tv in M*A*S*H.

As a photographer, I was issued a military field portable darkroom.

It was divided into a section for storage of equipment and a light-proof side for processing film and making contact b&w prints.

These were 4x5 inches, large enough to show the Colonel what I had taken that day of their training exercises with tanks.

 The darkroom was protected from the sun with a large outer tent that provided shade from the relentless tropical sun.

The whole unit was quite a  functional design.

It broke down into several large - but manageable - large crates.

I scavaged wooden pallets to provide a floor for my workplace and the middle section contained a cooling fan to kept film cool ... and it also was a cool place to store Cokes. As in Rum & Coke and cans of beer.

After a site was selected and the unit erected, I saw it was in close proximity to the area of the Officers Club (large tent).

I guess a young Lieutenant heard about my neighboring photo operation and he paid me a visit to see what was involved.

We became friendy (I was a 20-year old Cpl E-4, he was 23) and he was a very good amateur photographer.

We discussed a lot about taking photos and one Saturday morning, he requisitioned a jeep and we took off on a photo jaunt into the "jungle" outside our camp.

Not really a jungle and it had a few trails laughingly called roads.

As we climbed into the jeep with our cameras, I casually mentioned I had a small .25 caliber pistol. that I would like to include in case there were animals that might be a threat. He said, "Sure, that makes sense."

Yikes. He didn't ask why I had a non-disclosed, non-issued, weapon and I can't recall how I got it, why I had it packed in my gear and whatever happened to it later.

As we ventured in the opposite direction from the camp's recreational beach, he reminded me there was a lot of unexploded ordnance where we were headed inland.

The Navy used most of the uninhabited part of the island as a target for their guns and planes dropped bombs there.

I realized we really didn't have permission to go there but - what the hell!

We took turns firing a whole box of ammo that I had.

None of the coconuts we shot in trees actually fell because it was a very small gun.

The other good news is we did not get blown up and nobody ever asked me about the trip we had taken and I am sure the officer never mentioned it either.

As I think about it now, he was complicit in the deed and it would have weighed more heavily on him.

I'm also thinking that the statute of limitations has long passed.


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Saturday, December 09, 2017

If not healthy, sure is colorful...

 I say THIS is the message that appears when I step on my bathroom scale.

Not true but COULD happen.

The other message - as I feel a few more pounds have been added - would be "Come back alone."

I showed this to somebody and he asked where did the sign really appear?

It's on the entrance door at my Pinnacle Bank branch on Dorchester Road at the end of Ashley Phosphate in North Charleston.

I started banking at the Mount Pleasant branch when it was named Southcoast, then became Bank of North Carolina.

If you've been to either branch, you know that the door admits you inside but a second door does not open if it detects you have metal on you, like a gun or, I suppose, a sword.

It made for an apt sign to indicate I am heavier and need to take another look at what I am eating.

A recent house guest - taking a break from Chicago weather - came for few day's visit and I observed he bought different groceries than I do.

Healthy dark green salads, fruits, and veggies, but he did use some bread when he made avocado toast.

I had this for the first time while in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Anyway, he left two avocados behind and I made my version of the breakfast dish.

Not bad but I don't see any instant reduction shown on my scale.

I do enjoy blueberries and other mixed fruits with my cereal and probably should follow his lead and eat healthier.

Into grilled chicken and pork loin - the other white meat - so maybe I will see some lower figures on my scale.

Meanwhile, after a lull in activity of building a sidewalk on my side of the street in Hanahan, the SCE&G crews showed up.

Fascinating activity as the crews worked to install new power poles and removing the ones blocking the path of the sidewalk.

Came a knock on the door and a linesman informed me that my power would be turned off around 10am and they would restore it quickly as possibe once the transition was made to new poles.

Crews were working all the way down my street to clear the p[ath of the new sidewalk.

They had two trucks with booms and it must be like working activity in space at the International Space Station.

No, I think the ISS only has one boom arm.

Obviously,  a new pole would be put in place but all the "stuff" already attached would have to be moved to the new one.

We are talking about dangerous electrical connections that had to be carefully removed and then placed on a new pole.

I used to call them telephone poles but - with everyone carrying and using cell phones, I guess "power" is the correct new name.

Another example of how things are taken for granted and are subject to change.

Meanwhile, I still look around in my freezer and either "nuke" a meal in the microwave or simply use my frying pan.

I got rid of my pop-up toaster to have more counter space and use my toaster oven to prepare my bread slices or blueberry bagels.

Sure bread has carbs but at least there is some fruit involved.

I'll keep working on my food intake.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

 If you have not tried avocado toast it is simple to make.

Even I could do it.

Burp.






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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Seeing through the eyes of a visitor...



 T'is the season to do some holiday travel.

Not in the crowded skies, but on-the-ground aboard AMTRAK

It was a good sign when my buddy from Chicago arrived two minutes EARLY.

It has been a while since I went to our old, old railroad station but I was pleased that the parking lot had shrunk, due to the start of construction of a new intermodal facility.

This had been talked about going back to when I first returned to Charleston from Tallahassee, back in the nineties.

Doesn't look like much right now but the project has finally started.

Dirt is being moved around and the digging of foundations is underway.

The new, expanded, modern facility is scheduled to open next summer to welcome travelers.

Not just as the passenger railroad connecting point for Amtrak, but also shuttles to the airport, the new Greyhound bus station and CARTA buses headed downtown.

Back in 2005, after I had retired from the local paper, I bought a North America Rail Pass that gave me access to all the routes by Amtrak for 30 days.

I learned a lot about train-riding as I traveled up and down both coasts and Coast to Coast when I added a trans-Canada trek on a restored 1950s vintage VIA Rail train.

One of the parts of the Rail Pass was to include a leg of the journey in Canada.

It was an added cost but the First Class posh ride - with my own roomette - was a relaxing Canadian break.

Last week my buddy and I had 6 days to get around town and re-visit places we had gone to 3 years before.

Last time, the remodeling of The Market had just been completed.

So he had to walk through and do some gift shopping with a Southern flavor.

Adjacent to the Market was Noisy Oyster where he enjoyed a platter of salmon.

It was a sunny noontime and the open windows there went well with a mild, sunny day.

I ate my way through a delicious serving of shrimp and grits, with pieces of sausage and crumbled bacon bits.

Oh, and a slice of cornbread.

Delicious.

We spotted a group of (I guess) Amish young ladies in long blue skits and white bonnets.

Right across from the Noisy Oyster, several of the older Amish gentlemen were in a lengthy discussion at a booth offering tickets to a carriage tour.

Equine horse-power being the center of the conversion I am sure.

Sure, it's a cliche or stereotyping but it MIGHT have been what they talked about.

We had seen the younger folks as they trooped up the many steps of the Custom House and then came back down and wandered toward the market.

We stopped at the Moon Pie Shop where I usually have my guests pose, sitting on the prop moon, set up in the back of the store.

Today that area was filled with boxes and I was told they would be closing soon. Aww!

Naturally one passes the Four Corners of Law at Broad and Meeting Street.

Today I actually had something to mail so we ducked into the Federal main post office. I had not been in there for a long, long time.

There was a small area off the lobby labeled History Room and it was pretty interesting.

Old equipment, official uniforms of the 1900s era, Confederate stamps and currency and other odds and ends, like an odd-looking numbering machine in addition to old typewriters.

There were many racks of various hand stamps that reminded me of summers at the Folly Beach post office in the fifties.

My grandmother worked with Jimmy Ballard, the Postmaster, and she would let me take naps on piles of scratchy mail bags and "help her" as I hand-canceled tons of colorful postcards. Well, small stacks.

I was probably 10 or so. Center Street had not been paved yet. It then was crushed oyster shells.

My Chicago visitor and I wandered around today's Folly Beach Island - lunch at Rita's - after walking out to the end of the fishing pier. We saw craftsmen working on encasing damaged support pilings with a protective skin of concrete.

Then I drove us to the west end of the island and we walked on the beach toward the lighthouse.

We were joined by two ladies who had recently moved to Charleston.

Telling them I grew up here, they asked if I had taken the boat tour from Bowen's Island to the lighthouse where you go ashore? They said they saw a Groupon for it.

I responded that there no longer was an "island" to tour and the lighthouse was closed to the public as too dangerous.

We came upon something that had been uncovered by Hurricane Irma when dunes were recently severely eroded.

When asked what it was, I suggested it either was part of a flying saucer or perhaps the base of a WWII shore gun emplacement.

It was a beautiful day at the beach and we took lots of photos with our cellphone cameras.

(Click on the pictures and links for more details.)

Thanks for joining my small walkabout tour with my out-of-town friend

We made sure to stop in at a few Craft beer breweries while he was here.

At Edmund's Oast Brewery he had his first cask ale in quite a few years.

I do wish I had brought my "real" camera with its crisp zoom lens for even better shots. Hindsight and all that.

Here are a few more pictures including an interior view of the marble and staircase in the Main Library:







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